Veteran Stories:
Rodolphe Belisle

Army

  • Rodolphe Belisle at Maison Paul Triquet in Quebec City, Quebec, on June 4th, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"It was static war. Believe me, it was not pleasant patrolling at night. It wasn’t nice at all."

Transcript

At that time … we didn’t get a lot of news [from home], it was far away. We were far from civilization, if you will. Naturally, when new guys arrived, we talked about the war, and we got information on how it was going. At that time, there were two possibilities: you could enlist voluntarily or you were called to do your military training, but not voluntarily [under the National Resources Mobilization Act of 1940]. But I volunteered. I went down to enlist three times. They accepted me the third time. The first two times, they had refused me due to poor vision; “defective vision in the left eye,” they wrote. The third time, the doctor that performed my eye exam figured that they needed more people, I suppose.

From there, we crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to enter the Mediterranean and we berthed at Naples [Italy, in fall of 1943]. At Naples, we disembarked that’s when we starting making war for real.

The in the springtime, once the ground firmed up, we resumed our advance. Sometimes we would go for a month, sometimes less and sometimes more, at the front, which meant that we were directly on the front line. After a period of time, we would head to the rear for a rest and we would regroup; we lost men, naturally. We lost people due to injury, sickness, death. So when we went back, we had to replace those people, integrate [the reinforcements] into the group that they would be attached to. We had to carry on like that..

Finally, the summer came and went. We gained quite a bit of ground. We left Ortona [which had been under Allied control since December, 1943], around there. By the following fall, the fall of 1944, we found ourselves on the Lombardy Plain, in northern Italy. Then it was winter again. The Lombardy Plain was the same, it was muddy, and everything… got lost in it. It was static war. Believe me, it was not pleasant patrolling at night. It wasn’t nice at all.

We would go out in groups of about ten soldiers; sometimes more, sometimes less, it depended. The goal was to infiltrate enemy lines to try and gather information; try to get prisoners if possible and do our best not to be caught ourselves. Naturally, we did this at night, we couldn’t see the enemy and we know where they were exactly. We went to out to discover. From time to time, the Germans would set off flares which would illuminate everything. When we were caught like that, it happened fast. Then it was like we were naked in front of the enemy. It was really nerve-wracking.

When the war ended, we were in Holland. We went from Italy to Holland, and northern Germany. We came back to Canada. We regularly attended sessions on how to return to civilian life. We were coming back to Canada, leaving the army and integrating back into civilian life. We were told that when we returned to Canada, we would be able to choose any job we wanted. We would have lots of choices and it sounded good. But once we got back to Canada, it was otherwise. There were so many people looking for work and everything, everyone applying for the same jobs. You had to take what you could get.

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